Western Capercaillie’s main area of distribution covers the Eurasian coniferous forest belt. In Central Europe the species mainly occurs in mountainous regions. In Finland, Western Capercaillie is found in the whole country except for the northernmost fell area of Lapland. It is estimated that some 250 000 Western Capercaillie pairs breed in Finland. Though the concept of pairing is somewhat misleading when we talk about the Western Capercaillie, as the female and the male birds only meet in late April or early May in the lek sites. During mating, just a few cocks will fertilize most of the hens. Western Capercaillie is an important game species, though hunting has been regionally restricted when necessary, as the populations have dwindled.
Sometimes during spring, you can encounter so-called ”mad capercaillies” that in their courting fever will attack even humans. This phenomenon has been explained with the disappearance or fragmentation of their lek sites. Western Capercaillie is a sedentary bird that rarely moves far from its original territory. In Lapland the longest movements have been around 15 kilometres, according to ringing data. In the winter, Western Capercaillie save energy by moving only a little. Their winter diet consists mainly of pine needles.
Text: Jukka Jokimäki & Marja-Liisa Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki
Read more about Western Capercaillie:
Flying Arctis -frontpage.